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Sometimes I just want to comment on something in the news. This is one place where I do it. Another is the Have Your Say (HYS) page on the BBC website.  For local Teddington matters, “Letters to the Editor” at Teddington Online is useful.  Also try my miscellany for longer comments..

“I hasten to laugh at everything for fear I might have to weep.”


29th May, 2007 - It seems that even churches will have to display NO SMOKING signs from 1st July.  There are clearly too many idle people with time on their hands.  I am 101% in favour of the ban, but this idea is too ludicrous for words. I've seen people break every law in the land, but I've never seen anyone smoke in church.

25th April, 2007 - Two comments from me were published on the latest BBC Have Your Say discussion on rubbish collections:

  • Ever since 'rear of house' collections stopped, the whole system has deteriorated faster than a sausage full of maggots. The streets are full of litter spilled from rubbish bags, and the pavements are filthy and slippery from leakages.
  • The whole concept of numerous different boxes for recycling is ill-conceived. At some point these boxes will wear out and need recycling themselves. How? Really really big recycling boxes?

23rd April, 2007 - Many shops and banks forbid their staff from smoking outside their own premises.  So staff have to go next door, but if there is a similar ban outside enough shops, it should lead to a total ban in the high street. Good thing too!!

20th April, 2007 - Rather than have a statue in Parliament Square of a non-British hero, why not have an intricate diagram celebrating the life of England's greatest naval hero. We could call it the Nelson Mandala.

17rd March, 2007

The Have Your Say (HYS) page on the BBC website asks “Who should police the internet? Who should prevent children from seeing internet porn?”  I replied,

“Three years ago I tried to start a business, SafetyOnTheInternet, advising parents on internet safety for children. My business advisors said it wouldn't work, but I chose to go ahead. I promoted it extensively to 80 schools in a five mile radius over fifteen months and got a response from one school, and no parents. “

“Try to imagine the Internet in fifty years' time. It is unimaginable to think that it will be the spam-, porn-, and scam-ridden unregulated hotch-potch that it currently is. There is far to much freedom, far to much anonymity and far to much lawlessness.  ISPs should regulate their customers, countries should regulate their own domains, and an international regulatory body should have the last say.”

17th March, 2007

  • There was one of those bizarre stupid 'politically correct' stories in the paper today, concerning a school that was putting on a show which featured the Three Little Pigs. Some idiots decided to change the three little pigs to the three little puppies so as not to upset Muslims. As Alice pointed out, the average child would be much more upset if the three little puppies came to a sticky end, rather than the Three Little Pigs. Who thinks up these bizarre ideas? Perhaps this school has a very imaginative publicity agent!
  • A Muslim spokesman pointed out that there is nothing wrong with Muslims talking about pigs, or even looking at them. However the prize comment came from an Asian lady I work with, "Jesus, that's stupid!"

  • I’ve updated and expanded my rant about recycling.
  • Like many subjects, information security comes with its own terminology and the jargon can be opaque to outsiders. Click here (BBC site) to shed light on the murky world of cyber crime.

15th March, 2007

Today’s Have Your Say (HYS) topic is “Could 'jails' in shopping centres and the high street help police deal with criminals quickly?  What do you think of the proposals? Could they help free up police time? What about plans to expand the use of DNA recording?”

I replied: "Being a law-abiding decent honest citizen, any law which won't affect me has got to be good."

Other correspondants replied to mine:

    1. “Your trust in this corrupt, incompetent government is touching.  Keep taking the tablets.  Since DNA profiling is accurate to about 1 in 1,000,000 and the (official) population of the UK is about 60,000,000, and bearing in mind this govt's track record with new computer systems, you may expect to be arrested the day after they analyse your sample.”

    2. “Would you like to bet we can't find something to nail you for? If we look closely enough?” - Watching you, From somewhere

    3. “They'll get you for something or other, because they'll want everyone's DNA encoded in the ID Cards database.”

    4. “Never done 32mph in a 30mph, ever?, had a bot of tissue paper fall out your pocket, been a day late renewing your car tax disc or tv licence, you must be a sad little man.” - DM, Nottingham, United Kingdom

Re #4, I replied, “I got a speeding ticket once and a parking ticket, didn't do either again! (I’m a cheerful large man, actually!), and I pay the TV licence by standing order.”

6th March, 2007

How about postcode-level democracy and sentencing? Say my postcode is XY12 3AB. If someone commits a minor offence in my postcode, then all my neighbours and I with the same code try the offender and pass sentence if found guilty. For a more major offence, the perpetrator would be tried at the XY12 level.  Ultimately the tougher postcodes would become trouble-free.

Isn’t it time that there was a more severe penalty for acts of violence perpetrated against someone who has asked someone else to behave better?

27th February, 2007

A month or so ago British Gas were offering two free energy-saving light bulbs.  We put one in the hall and one on the landing, as they were the only two places where we could cope with their gloomy light.  Yes, we’ll save energy until they burn out, but we’ll be replacing them with ‘proper’ ones.

These days it seems hard to avoid hearing about hoodies in the media. I've never actually met one myself, but what an unattractive bunch they really are! If you look back at teenage fashion over the last 50 years we've had smartly dressed teddy boys, well-turned-out Mods, weird but colourful hippies, glam rockers, anarchic but imaginative punks, and even the truly strange new romantics. Now we just have gormless hoodies, wandering aimlessly about, as if looking for a queue to join to get one of those very unflattering ASBO photographs taken. Don't their parents tell them that shapeless, grey nylon, supposed sports gear does nothing for style?

22nd February, 2007

Police are about to clamp down on mobile telephone use while driving.  It's too often obvious that callers to BBC Radio London (my current station of choice, but no doubt this applies everywhere) are calling chat shows from their cars, and traffic news reporters actually encourage drivers to phone in with details of jams.  Surely they don't think that they pull out of the jam to do that!!!!

If someone is playing a space invaders-style computer game, and someone is talking to them while they are on a hands-free mobile, can anyone possibly argue that it won't act as a distraction from getting a high score? Likewise driving then.

17th February, 2007

If I hear much more about global warming, especially that irritating footprint expression, I’m going to buy one of those awful patio heaters and leave it on all summer.  Read here about Milankovitch cycles.  Two comments from Have Your Say sum it up for me:

    "Experts" say we are responsible for the world getting warmer. 20,000 years ago, Most of the North American Continent (and probably the northern hemisphere) was covered in Ice. This was known as an Ice age. The world has been getting hotter ever since. We have only been burning fossil fuels in large quantities for the last 100 years at most. Why is mankind so arrogant to think we are responsible for everything? When the next Ice Age comes they'll be begging us to burn fossil fuels.

    Can we finally dispel this man-made warming myth? The planet has had massive temperature swings way in excess of what we're seeing now for millions of years. It should be no surprise to find that it doesn’t stop happening just because man has evolved.  It's time to prosecute the green money spongers for fraud.

13th February, 2007

Following the third shooting of a teenage boy in South London in 3 weeks:

    Britain is facing a "collapse of authority" where young people no longer respect adults or institutions, a senior Conservative has warned.  Shadow trade and industry secretary Alan Duncan said it was up to the Tories to "re-civilise" the country.  In a speech in London, Mr Duncan warned the UK would be "condemned to decline" if young people were not controlled.  His comments follow the fatal shootings of three teenagers in south London in the past fortnight. "The greatest problem we need to address in Britain is that it is steadily becoming de-civilised," he told the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank.

I find it unbelievable that the latest boy shot is better known by his graffiti tag name, that he was also electronically tagged and has a haircut clearly unsuitable for a school boy.

13th February, 2007

Britain has apparently come bottom in a league table for child well-being across 21 industrial countries, a report by Unicef says.  The following three comments are from contributors to the BBC site. I agree.

    “There are a lot of very unintelligent, poorly educated, socially unskilled, dysfunctional and aggressive people in UK who have become parents. This has been going on for generations and the evidence is everywhere to see. Every day I see fat, chainsmoking mothers in football shirts swearing at their kids. The nation has lost what modicum of class it once had.”

    “The UK is on the brink of social meltdown. I really believe that there are serious problems ahead for UK. I hate the culture of bling bling and celebrity, twisted with the weakness of political correctness. Its been a recipe for disaster for years and the future is bleak. If this is what our kids our like now, god help us all!”

    “Interestingly I commute between the highest and lowest ranked countries in this survey and the difference is very marked. Dutch children appear happy, outgoing and enjoy considerable personal freedom in a society that places an emphasis on social responsibility...approaching a group of Dutch teenagers is not a cause for apprehension. Kids at home seem moody and fearful, ill at ease with themselves and society, masking this fear with the need to convey a sense of menace. Our society encourages a gormless nihilism and guess what? It's not the's us! We create this culture ourselves and amplify it through a cynical media to play back to our kids.”

2nd February, 2007

The BBC Have Your Say (HYS) page asked, “What other (apart from traffic) urban noises drive you mad?”  I replied,

    “One of the worst causes of noise is the computer microprocessor. We get trash sounds from mobile phones (ringtones, music and conversation) bleeps from photocopiers, shrieks from fax machines, who knows what from PCs and printers, nasty alien 'I am reversing' messages from lorries, bing-bongs from lift doors, clickety-bleeps from car security systems... Need I go on?

    “This dizzy plethora of aural anarchy is a blight on society.

Another reader complained about piped music in his GP's surgery. Ours has a nasty electronic voice that calls out your name and the doctor, and which room to visit.  It can handle 'Patel', but had to spell MacNeil.  At least it doesn't call out your medical complaint as well!! I managed to get two comments on HYS at the same time!

2nd February, 2007

While I, like most people, consider loud music leaking from personal stereos to be one of the blights of modern society, I must admit to being amused by a one-line letter in a newspaper yesterday.

    "To the woman who broke my earphones and slapped me, what time did the police release you on Friday night?"

25th January, 2007

The BBC Have Your Say page asked “What scientific advance are you most looking forward to?” I replied,

    “I hope we get conclusive proof that mobile phones do cause brain tumours, then people will stop fiddling about with them, yelling into them, playing crass ringtones and having banal conversations in public.”

22nd January, 2007

The following is my letter to BBC Radio London on the subject of planned ‘Respect Zones’.  It was read out.

    “I'm sick of hearing sympathy for yobs, and that their behaviour is because they are undervalued.

    “As a teenager I probably felt undervalued. I went to the library, read books, watched Blue Peter, played footie in the park and joined the Cadet Force.

    “I'm sick of hearing sympathy for yobs, and that their behaviour is because they are from broken homes.

    “Two generations grew up during and after World Wars, without a father figure. “

18th January, 2007

Train overcrowding is nature's way of telling us that we should embrace more flexible working practices. Working your 9-5 day any time between 0800 and 2000 will ease congestion, and be very attractive to lots of workers, and mean that businesses are more flexible for their customers.  Easy.

10th January, 2007

I recently read the following,

    “A jury has been asked to consider whether poker is a game of skill, chance, or a combination of both.”

I really do despair when I read about aspects of modern society like this! I know my 1975 A-level maths with statistics is almost worthless these days, but does it really need a jury of 12 just men and true to decide that poker, like backgammon perhaps, is a game in which you have to make the best of a random situation? To the rest of the sane, sensible, thinking world, these are clearly games that combine luck and skill. Is it me?  (Footnote, after due deliberation, and no doubt much public money, the jury decided that poker is not 100% skill.)

8th January, 2007

We recycle as much as we can, without going overboard, but I do feel that so much is ill-thought out. Our streets (and countryside) are littered with dirty unsightly recycling boxes, which will eventually need recycling themselves when they get worn out.

Also, how much effort, water and detergent should we use for cleaning metal food trays etc?  The pavements of residential streets are filthy from leaky or spilt food recycling containers. And how come we can recycle Xmas cards, but not cardboard sleeves off food cartons?

18th December, 2006

Until I was constantly bombarded with incessant carbon footprints, global warming and in-your-face green issues, I was quite socially aware and I didn't care whether I was going to be buried or cremated, in fact I was even  looking forward to the surprise.  Now I want to go out in one great all-consuming resource-hungry ozone-layer-depleting conflagration as a goodbye to all the do-gooders I'll leave behind.

1st December, 2006

The BBC Have Your Say page asked what we thought of planned changes to sixth form qualifications in England. A-levels will be made more challenging and all young people in England will have a chance to study the International Baccalaureate. My response was published:

“30 years on from my A-levels, I am stunned by the lack in general education of those (British) people half my age. International Baccalaureate (IB), if it sets a comparison against other European teenagers, will finally prove what people have been saying for years about dumbing down. Most foreigners speak English better than our own younger people.”

23rd November, 2006

Yet more praise from me for Ken Livingstone! Following the campaign I have supported recently to ban playing music through mobile phones on buses, Ken has promised to specifically address it in a forthcoming campaign against anti-social behaviour on public transport.

14th November, 2006

I never thought I’d praise London Mayor Ken Livingstone, the man who single-handedly invented the phrase Looney Left in the 1980s, but I must commend him for his plans to radically increase the London Congestion Charge for large and antisocial family cars.

13th November, 2006

I despair at the news that convicted drug offenders have sued the Prison Service.  (Six prisoners and former inmates forced to stop taking drugs going "cold turkey" are to receive payments, sources at the High Court have said. The settlement followed the prisoners’ claim that their human rights were breached and the practice amounted to assault.)

I also despair at news that the city of Milan, (or was it Madrid?) is going to change half of its pedestrian traffic lights so that the familiar little red man and little green man will become a little red woman and a little green woman, complete with a pony tail and skirt. Who thinks of these ideas? Probably the same people who plan to introduce signs like this one.

10th October, 2006

A friend of mine went into a shop recently and asked for half a dozen boxes of matches.  The oik behind the counter replied,

    "What's half a dozen?" (Punctuation and capitalisation are mine!)

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